Gourmet Pizza at Home: Unlocking the Secrets of Artisan Baking

gourmet wood fired pizza

Gourmet, speciality pizzas made with love can be cooked at home with ease if you master the art of artisan pizza baking and equip yourself with the right wood-fired pizza oven.

Great news if you love to get hands-on with home projects is that you can not only create unique gourmet pizzas at home but also build your own artisan outdoor pizza oven as a home DIY project. Our DIY pizza oven kits are hugely popular.

Not that handy? Well, worry not, as your gourmet pizzas can also be rustled up in a ready-to-go pizza oven. Or you could choose one already put together as a prefabricated pizza oven and easily installed by our experts within whatever aesthetic surround you desire. You can even opt for a gas pizza oven and still create gourmet pizza if it’s a Valoriani oven from Orchard Ovens.

Why artisan baking and gourmet pizza making is so satisfying?

Why would you want to make your own gourmet pizza at home? Well, it will firstly save you a heap of money on restaurant and takeaway costs. Having a great pizza oven is an instant means of entertaining friends and family. Just throw a garden pizza party, and you will find it is a true upgrade on a BBQ.

But it will also take you on a more extensive journey.  One where you can experiment with traditional flavours and food textures, have the thrill of achieving something and learn a new skill – mastering the art of fire building – not to mention playing around with pizza oven tools and accessories.

You can involve everyone, whether adding toppings to the dough that’s ready for the ceramic pizza stone or turning the pizza with the metal pizza peel.

Of course, if you have the right outdoor pizza oven, you can create lip-smacking gourmet pizza on par with anything a chef would serve.

You may already be making pizza in a small portable oven. If so, perhaps it’s time to elevate your homemade pizza cooking to another level. You can do this with a little help from Valoriani and its range of pizza oven kits, artisan-built outdoor ovens, and woodburning or gas-fired ready-to-go pizza ovens.

Essential ingredients for artisan baking

The essential ingredients for artisan baking can be divided into two categories. First, you need the right dough. Second, you need the right wood-burning oven and know how to fire it properly. Beyond that, you just need to add the skills that you will develop over time. 

1. Dough

If you make your dough from scratch, you can have something ready to go and the basis of your gourmet pizza in as little as three hours. If you want to cheat a little, you can buy ready-made dough balls!

Whilst a 3-hour pizza can help you create a fantastic-tasting pizza, remember that the longer you allow fermentation to take place, the more texture and complexity of flavour your dough will have. If you can extend that period to 24-48 hours, you will have cracking dough for your gourmet pizza.

Ideally, you should use OO flour for your base. This has a higher protein content, so it will result in a chewier crust. Everyone has a different preference when it comes to the texture of their crust, so play around with different dough recipes until you find one that suits you. 

More water in your dough mix will typically soften the crust. It would be best to aim for a hydration level of around 75% and then adjust accordingly.

If you make it from scratch, you must prove (proof) your dough.  This is a fermentation process whereby yeast is activated within the dough. You could prove at room temperature, in a proving drawer, in a foodie multi-cooker with this function, or in the fridge.  Cold proofing will help enhance flavour and dough flexibility, but you must get the dough to room temperature for about 1.5 hours before handling it.

It would be best if you then learned the technique of hand-stretching your dough. This helps provide a lighter and more aerated crust that will be perfect for your gourmet pizza. Avoid using a rolling pin, as this will flatten the edge of your pizza and quickly make it burn.

2. Artisan wood-fired pizza oven

Gourmet pizza—and the emulation of authentic Mediterranean pizza—is difficult to serve unless you have the right wood-burning oven. 

Pizza must be cooked in a scorching oven – at a temperature between 450ºF and 500ºF (250-260ºC). Many ovens will struggle to get up to this temperature or maintain it for the repeated cooking of pizzas.  That’s essential for a pizza party, where the oven’s thermal efficiency, insulation, and construction materials become crucial.

For quality outdoor cooking in a wood-fired oven, you need an oven with good firebrick construction and insulation. This is what you get when you buy a Valoriani oven. The brand’s reputation in Italy is generations old and well-earned. Only quality raw materials go into the construction, and all are overseen by one factory, where both domes and oven floors are manufactured. With a Valoriani oven, the heat stays completely inside, creating the ideal cooking environment. 

Despite this, the fact that the dome is cool to the touch says everything about how good the insulation is.  Unlike other ovens that can cause severe burns to users and children playing around the stove if the shell is touched or brushed against, Valoriani ovens are adequately insulated.

DIY pizza oven kit options

The DIY pizza oven kits from Orchard Ovens bear the same stamp of Valoriani excellence. The kits offer various models and size options, and top-quality insulation, mortar, chimney flues, and decorative arches with serial numbers are also included in the bundle.

Notably, the depth of the cooking floor and dome with these oven kits is 5cm.  The quality of the oven, the dome, and the floor, which arrive in sections for self-build, has been known to last seven years in even commercial environments. 

With a steel door on two of the available kit models and a hinged ceramic door with a thermometer on another, these DIY build-your-own pizza oven kits are a cut above others and leave you with an oven just perfect for the rustling up of gourmet pizza.

Optimised artisan baking of your gourmet pizza

Whichever Valoriani oven you choose, you’ll get the same credentials, so your cooking environment should be optimised. Checking the temperature of the oven before you start loading your pizza is easy if you use a temperature gun. From there, you can simply flour a pizza peel, load your pizza, and jiggle it onto the wood-burning oven’s floor. In just a couple of minutes, depending on how high you have the oven, your pizza should be scrumptious.

As one of our customers, Jamie Oliver, says, cooking pizza this way won’t leave it looking anaemic, and your cheese will be “dancing.” Your handcrafted, artisan-baked pizza should look amazing and taste divine once you’ve mastered the skills required.

Pizza tools to assist your artisan baking

The tools you need to have on hand when you embark on the quest to create gourmet pizza at home are relatively few. You will need a metal or wooden peel to load the pizza into the oven. A wooden one can be advantageous, as the dough is less likely to stick to a floured wooden peel if it has a bevelled edge, which is even better.

It would be best to have a metal pizza peel to manoeuvre the pizza once it’s cooking in the oven. It also allows you to lift the base and check its colour. This peel can also be placed between the fire and the edge of the pizza if you wish to protect it from burning too quickly.  It can also help move wood.

A wire brush is required to brush the oven floor and sweep ashes to one side during the cooking process. It can also clear out the ashes once the oven has cooled.

A point-and-shoot laser thermometer gun will calculate the exact temperature of the oven, giving you the confidence to load your gourmet pizza at the right time.  If you have a DIY pizza oven kit with an in-built temperature gauge, you will not need this.

If you struggle to stack your wood in a way that enables the required oxygen to move around it, you might wish to invest in a metal wood rest.

You also need very thick gloves, such as BBQ or welding gloves, as the temperatures in the oven are immense. Ideally, look for ones with long cuffs.

A commercial dough box and a dough scraper can also be an asset.

Suggestions for your home-cooked gourmet, artisan pizza

The world is your oyster regarding the toppings you select for your gourmet pizza.  You could study the menu of your favourite pizza restaurant and copy your favourites or experiment with what tickles your taste buds.

You don’t just have to stick to mozzarella.  Why not use some Emmental, Gorgonzola or Dolcelatte as your cheese choice?  You can also add parmesan before or after cooking.

Basil and rosemary are popular herbs. Before you bake them, put some olive oil on them to make the most of their flavour and prevent drying out.

Here are some possible pizza combinations for you to try:

Grilled aubergine, black olives, goat’s cheese and parmesan

Speck, roast garlic, Scamorza and mozzarella

‘Nduja sausage with rocket and ricotta

Caramelised onion with Gorgonzola and thyme

Salami, sundried tomato, chilli, mozzarella and garlic

To be honest, once you get good at wood-fired cooking, you should never need any wood-burning oven recipes. Once you are proficient at working with different temperatures, you can cook anything in your indoor cooking repertoire. It’s much more fun to cook it outdoors, and the fresh air increases your appetite.

Want to find out more?  Call 07743 847647, and we will discuss your artisan baking and gourmet pizza oven options.

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